Google commits to removing identifiers from Chrome – for good

Google has announced that it will not build an alternate identifier system to track individuals as they browse across the web once third-party cookies are phased out. It added that it would also not use them in other Google products.

The news comes after search and social media companies face growing backlash from governments and individuals about privacy and data usage.

The tech company previously announced that its browser Google Chrome will limit insecure cross-site tracking, by treating cookies that don’t include a SameSite label as first-party only, and require cookies labeled for third-party use to be accessed over HTTPS.

The news was shared in a blog post by director of product management, ads privacy and trust, David Temkin.

“We realise this means other providers may offer a level of user identity for ad tracking across the web that we will not — like PII graphs based on people’s email addresses,” he wrote. “We don’t believe these solutions will meet rising consumer expectations for privacy, nor will they stand up to rapidly evolving regulatory restrictions, and therefore aren’t a sustainable long term investment. Instead, our web products will be powered by privacy-preserving APIs which prevent individual tracking while still delivering results for advertisers and publishers.”

Sir Martin Sorrell, founder and executive chairman of S4 Capital, said: “With Google Chrome removing support for third-party cookies by 2022, the time for marketers to start investing in the future is now.”

Jakub Otrzasek, head of data analytics, Asia Pacific at MightyHive from S4 Capital said in response to the announcement that marketers should “relentlessly” focus on data strategies over the next 12 months.

He added: “This is the best long-term decision as Google is coming out on the side of consumers and will not use “alternate identifiers” in the Google ecosystem.”

IAB Australia issued a blog following the announcement which recommended publishers commit to a “competent first-party data strategy” while for advertisers and agencies, “commitment to key supplier partnerships is highly advisable”.

It added that for the industry overall, a commitment to the “collaborative testing of audience cohorts” and those various iterations.

However, others in the market see the move away from third to first party cookies as an opportunity.

Verizon Media head of data ANZ Dan Richardson, said in a recent opinion piece that collection of user IDs that doesn’t rely on cookies or mobile device IDs is the next step for the new advertising ecosystem.

“Brands and publishers who collect personally identifiable information (such as address and phone numbers) through login or purchase, and who can also guarantee the safety of that information, should already have the framework in place to target their audiences even after the changes to the industry,” he said.

Fellow tech company Apple has also begun changing the cookies framework, announcing that all apps in the App Store will need to show a prompt to users on iOS 14 devices, in accordance with their App Tracking Transparency framework.

The prompt will request permission before tracking users across other apps and websites. Users will be able to access privacy controls in the Settings app under the “Privacy” menu. Users will also see a pop-up message when they open an application for the first time after this feature has rolled out, across new apps as well as ones that they already have on their devices.

Google intends to make (Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLOC)-based cohorts, a draft API, on Chrome available for public testing through trials with its next release this month, and expects to begin testing FLoC-based cohorts with advertisers in Google Ads in Q2.  The API extends the Chrome browser by providing access to machine learning algorithms to the habits or interests of large numbers of users in order to better develop and enhance the cohorts based upon the user behaviours and sites that an individual visits.

Chrome also will offer the first iteration of new user controls in April and will expand on these controls in future releases, as more proposals reach the origin trial stage, and they receive more feedback from end users and the industry.


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